This Weekend: Work & Play All of Labor Day

It seems to be happening fast. Last night I felt comfortable going out in my leather jacket; the temperatures easily allowed it. There was a hint of cool air in the wind, and traffic was nonexistent. I could park anywhere in my ‘hood. I had a Kojak spot in front of the house. New Yorkers were off to elsewheres, grasping at the last straws of summer. Union Pool’s patrons included last-gasping college types partying hardy before they were off to dorms in exotic locales where they will surely party just as hardy. The small talk was all about "what are you doing for the weekend?" As for me, I’m headed out Monday to DJ poolside at The Montauk Beach House.

My plan (and I never plan) is to play all surf rock, from Jan and Dean to the Ventures to the Tandems, Beach Boys, and Dick Dale – heavy on the surf guitar instrumental tracks. I’m bringing along a bikini-clad go-go gal for effect. I might drive out on Sunday morning and crash at a friend’s. I want to catch the DJ setfrom Julio Santo Domingo. He is the founder of Sheik ‘n’ Beik parties and record label. They throw events in New York City as well as in Miami, London, Paris, and Barcelona. It’s going to be techno music for the socialites…  not my usual cup of tea but since it is the end of summer… I may upgrade from that cup of tea. Besides, while not teetotaling, I get to hang with pal DJ and The Montauk Beach House booker Terry Casey, fast friend DJ Kris Graham, and the awesome DJ Brigitte Marie who, with a bunch of others, will be on before and after sir Julio. I’ll pop by Ditch Plains Beach, where surfers will be trying to catch that last wave of the season. The trip home should take about seven hours of bumper-to-bumper. Amanda will opt for singing “99 Barrels of Beer” rather than listen to my mixed tapes …again. Although it’s hard to have trouble in bumper-to-bumper please be aware that the roads are dangerously full of party animals who truly believe that they can
drink and drive.

Last night I dined with Marky Ramone, his lovely Marion, Jonny Lennon, and Adam Alpert at Gran Electrica, 5 Front Street, in Brooklyn. It was all fun and games ‘till the food came and then it was hard to concentrate on anything else. It was outside and wonderful and the war stories underneath the ivy were so much fun. Mark, the last of the Ramones as I knew them, is enjoying considerable success in his "post" career with his band Blitzkrieg and all sorts of other spin-offs and endeavors. The best benchmark for success, as I see it when I get to hang with him, is the all apparent love and respect and admiration he shares with Marion. I met them, we figured out last night, over 34 years ago. They have never wavered. He has never allowed the awe I have for his career interfere with our friendship. Jonny and Adam are my DJ agents and they must be good at it because I’m spinning three times this week…The Montauk Beach House on Monday, Hotel Chantelle tonight, and Bantam tomorrow. I will move off my usual rock offerings at all three gigs and serve up some Michael Jackson, who was born on August 29th, 1958. I read that, according to The Guinness Book of World Records, Michael Jackson was the most successful entertainer of all time. I guess that depends on how you define success.

Beer Buckets & Jerk Spice At Battery Harris, NYC’s New Cocktail Yard

In keeping with the neighborhood, the former filling station at Frost and Lorimer has switched to a trendier ethanol with the arrival of new cocktail yard Battery Harris. A cavernous sky-lit interior, a la fellow sub-BQE spot The Exley, abets a lovely yard that seats plenty more. From the vantage of a colorful beach chair, the hum of the highway is not unlike the ocean – if you use your imagination and order the right drink, of course.

Head bartender Saul Ranella puts a premium on shaken cocktails for the summer (plus a “frozie,” with chicha morada and passionfruit, once the blender’s in). The Lionheart has lime juice and mint shaken with bourbon and joined by a refreshing slice of cucumber. On the thicker side, the Desert Heat blends 7 Leguas tequila with egg white, agave nectar, and passionfruit. There’s also a jalapeño slice to bite into, at your discretion.

Heat seems to be a theme across the board, with the kitchen putting out a handful of snacks and proper dishes with a jerk spice that really kicks. Smoky slaw, jerk chicken legs, and spicy fries get more dangerous with a few drops of “XXX” hot sauce, or less so with a mug of housemade pickled okra and cauliflower (highly recommended). All orders are plenty substantial—no fear of the “small plates” grift here, even with a bowl of plantain chips, which is another wise remedy for the heat.

As the season comes on, Battery Harris should make a comfy alternative to overcrowded spots like Union Pool. Wallet-friendly pitchers and buckets of beer serve those allergic to swanky cocktails. And if the beach chairs aren’t colorful enough for you, check out the glass ashtrays. Smoke ’em if you got ’em, Billiamsburg.

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Photo: Thrillist.

The Top NYC Bars To Hook Up With Hipsters

How does it feel to tear off someone’s skin-tight lycra shorts and mismatched striped socks? Are coffee-guzzling, liberal arts majors better at talking dirty? What’s a hipster’s morning-after go-to spot ? If you cannot answer any of the above questions, it’s time you consult our list of the Top NYC Bars To Hook Up With Hipsters. This is a species that travels in packs, and where there’s one, there’s many. We are confident you will find lots of single, attractive, and nimble hipsters here.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Restaurants, Bars, and Food People Pull Together For Charity

Well, since just about everything planned this week and weekend was cancelled, what else is there to do but drink, and give a little back to those who lost a lot during Hurricane Sandy? All across the city, food folk are pulling together to host fundraising dinners, cocktail hours, and get-togethers to help pull New York City back on its feet. We already posted about the dinner by Momofuku and Café Boulud, but here are some other ways you can help, and in comes cases, eat and drink too.

On the Upper West Side, the yet-to-be-opened Casa Pomona is throwing a Hurricane Sandy relief dinner on Monday. For $75 you get wine and a four-course dinner. The best part, as you enjoy their lamb stew with mint, it will go down easier knowing all profits are being sent to New York Cares.

In SoHo the power is back at City Winery where they will be hosting a Hurricane Sandy Free Film Festival today. It started at 12:30, but you can still look forward to catching When Harry Met Sally at 3pm, Sidewalks of New York at 5pm, and Manhattan at 7:30. They will be serving light snacks and drinks, cash only, and if you need to, you can recharge your electronics. 

Sadly, Speed Rack’s Sunday event got postponed, but on the upside, the founders are turning their efforts into “Back the Rack,” and putting energy toward helping folk in the service industry by cleaning and rebuilding destroyed restaurants and bars. You can volunteer by filling out a form here.

Watch Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together, the benefit concert and telethon featuring Christina Aguilera, Jon Bon Jovi, Jimmy Fallon, and Sting tonight at 8pm at Full Circle Bar in Williamsburg. There, aside from broadcasting the show, they will be collecting toiletries, canned food, socks, clothes, batteries, and whatever else you want to give.

Also in Williamsburg, The Meat Hook and Brooklyn Kitchen are collecting goods to help people and businesses in the Rockaways, which, in case you didn’t know were obliterated.  Nearby at Union Pool, they are also supporting the Rockaways and the bar is putting together musicians and artists for a benefit show. If you want to be a part of it, you can email them here: info@union-pool.com.

On Monday you can hit up Clinton Hill’s The Fulton Grand bar for Hilary Krishnan’s Barman’s Fund shift. Every penny she gets in tips from 3 to 9pm will go to local charities, which, as she so eloquently says, “they need ‘em more than ever.”

The Art of a City Hall Wedding

I was hungover when I arrived at the City Clerk’s office. I had been out all night at Union Pool despite the fact that I knew I had to be a witness for my best friend Thal’s wedding early the next morning. It was just a formality so they could celebrate properly with a ceremony and reception in Providence a couple weeks later.

With whiskey and PBR squeezing themselves out of each and every pore of my body, I reached to hug Thal. “You’re late,” she said. She flipped up the navy blue newsboy cap I had pulled over my eyes and continued: “And you’ve been crying.”

“Not for a few hours,” I explained, “I sometimes cry when I drink. I blame my iPod and the empty L train back into Manhattan. It’s very emotional at 4 AM.” She rolled her eyes.

Both Thal and her future husband, George, were dressed in appropriate work attire for their jobs in the corporate world. I’d never seen him dressed up before and was shocked at how handsome he looked. He wore a dress shirt with a black and kelly green tie under a dark grey cashmere sweater. He welcomed me with a kiss on the cheek: “Thank you for doing this, Mandy.” I again pulled at my cap to shield my bloodshot eyes. My jeans were baggy from not having been washed for well over a week, and when I looked down, I realized my chambray shirt was missing a button.

I looked at Thal in her “business casual” outfit that consisted of a black knee-length skirt and a black sweater twin set, and sighed. “You told me I didn’t have to get dressed up,” I said.

“You don’t! We’re just dressed up because we have to go to work after this. Fortunately, you can wear that to work?” she actually questioned my attire. I looked down at my dirty Chucks, the ones that had danced in almost every bar on both this and that side of the Williamsburg Bridge, and sighed again. I guess I could have at least worn sneakers that didn’t have holes along the instep of the canvas.

“I’m not going to work today,” I said. “I already called in sick.”

Thal shook her head and went up to one of the windows. “Our witness is finally here,” she said as she glanced at me over her shoulder. I weakly smiled and took a seat on the wooden bench that creaked the same way as a pew in a church.

I had never been to the city clerk for anything, and I definitely had never been there to witness a marriage. It wasn’t much different from a deli: rows of people either sitting or standing, waiting for their number to be called so they could place their order and hope they made the right choice to satisfy their hunger. I slouched down, and wrapped my arms around my stomach. The bench creaked again.

In front of me couples paced back and forth, each face a variation of happiness or sadness. It was hard to tell; there seemed to be an overall sense of conflict in the majority of the eyes of those who passed me. Some were in jeans just as badly in need of a wash as my own, while others waltzed around in dresses that seemed to have been plucked from a 1994 David’s Bridal catalogue. From bright white to broken yellow with ripped lace to putrid pea green party dresses from another generation, another era, another century, and in some cases, another world, I couldn’t discern between what was meant to be ironic or legit. Or maybe neither.

“Is anyone sitting here?” my thoughts were interrupted by a girl in strapless, baby-pink gown that was laced up the bust with red ribbon similar to little girl’s sneaker, then fish-tailing out at the bottom as if she had escaped from the Mermaid Parade. Her dark brown hair was pulled up and adorned with baby’s breath and some sort of greenery that I didn’t recognize. Her lips were shimmery and looked as though she had coated them in glue then kissed a pile of sparkles. Internally, I questioned her access to a mirror at home.

“No,” I said. I slid over to make room for her and her soon-to-be husband. Despite her attempt at gussying up for the event that was obviously important to her, her fella didn’t seem to share her enthusiasm. With an over-sized Adidas zip-up track jacket and his Yankees cap slightly off center, he grumbled at everything his betrothed said. He was not answering her; he was simply placating.

She begged him to buy her flowers. “It won’t be a real wedding without flowers,” she pleaded. Before I could assume she wanted him to sprint to the closest bodega, I noticed a clear case that had a variety of flowers you could buy for your nuptials. From roses to lilies to daisies, each bouquet was wrapped in plastic cylinders and trapped inside that suffocating case. I had never seen anything so desperately depressing. I considered standing up and decrying something about love not equating to plastic wrapped flowers, deli lines, and bad cuts of meat, but I lacked the energy.

He refused to buy her flowers, and she began to sulk and softly whimper. I cringed at her attempt at crying and tried not to get sucked into the way the red ribbon in her dress was fraying at the ends. As she began to coo words of love, I felt the need to slide right off the bench and onto the floor to make a scene. It seemed like the only way to stop what was going on beside me. But the floor, filthy with grime and black footprints was even too much for my unwashed jeans.

Thal, George, and I waited in silence. It felt like we were waiting for the OK from a pilot to get up and move around the cabin. When the number finally flashed on the digital box above our heads, we rose at the same time and made our way to the chapel.

The “chapel” was unlike any chapel I had ever seen: it was a room with a podium and not a single religious relic in sight. I assumed it must be a “bring your own crucifix to your wedding” type of situation for those who needed that aspect as part of the ceremony.

Before Thal could even take off her coat to reveal her darling, yet corporate-friendly, outfit, the officiator was already reciting the technical words of marriage. With her coat half on and half off, Thal agreed to take this man, George, to be her husband. I didn’t even sufficiently exhale before the entire thing was over. I was barely one foot out the door when I turned to Thal and exclaimed: “I missed it! I fucking missed it!”

It was true. My eyes were barely open; I hadn’t even had coffee and before I knew it, my best friend married the love of her life and I missed it. As they scurried off to sign more paperwork, I went outside. I needed air.

While I waited on the front steps for Thal, I stood next to a couple who couldn’t even communicate without a translator. I listened closing to see if I could pick up on the thick accent of the man in the equation, but couldn’t detect it.

“Your accent is so unique. Where are you from?” I asked.

“The Netherlands,” he replied sweetly and carefully.

“And your bride to be?” I asked.

“Ohio,” she said, “We met online.”

Acknowledging the translator, I asked, “How is this going to work?” It was clear she answered because he couldn’t, and the translator was slow in doing his job.

The girl from Ohio, in an off-white satin, mini-dress and matching bow in her hair said, “There are no words for love.” I did my best not to roll my eyes and scoff at such a response. Between missing Thal’s wedding because I blinked and the taste of Jameson still on the back of my throat, I couldn’t stomach someone else’s delusions.

“Mandy, you’re up!” yelled George out the door. “One more form to sign!”

I looked at the girl from Ohio in her too-short dress, the boy from The Netherlands in his too-tight jeans, their translator in his flamboyant orange, chiffon scarf, and smiled. Sometimes that’s all one can do.

“Well, congratulations to you both,” I said. They both thanked me, and I was relieved that at least they had that word in common. Maybe it wasn’t quite the spoke word of “love,” but at the moment, it seemed close enough. I headed back inside.

“It’s official,” gushed Thal, “we’re married!”

“I know,” I said, “and I couldn’t be happier for you two!” I felt myself getting choked up.

“Are you going to cry again?” she asked.

“No!” I exclaimed. “I’m just really happy.” And I wasn’t lying; I was really happy. I loved Thal so much but I couldn’t find the words to say it. I pulled at the hem of my shirt while thinking about the missing button and suddenly blurted out, “Thank you.” That was all I could offer; and it that moment its meaning outweighed that of the word “love.”

Photo by Maggie Harkov

Navigating the Brooklyn Singles Crowd on Valentine’s Day

At nine o’clock on Valentine’s Day, Union Pool is surprisingly civilized. Brooklyn’s premier hipster meat market has perhaps 35 people inside, and they’re mostly keeping to those they came in with. Marty, 26 and from Clinton Hill, is confident that the place will pick up when the Valentine’s dates end. "When it all goes bad," he says, "they’ll come here. It’s the place where you end the night."

Next to Marty at the bar are two dudes. One of them crosses the room to talk to a table of three women. They stare at him quizzically. "What’s your friend doing?" I ask his wingman.

"Trying to initiate."

How’s that going for him?

"If they start thinking really hard, he’s doing well." The women do seem to be thinking pretty hard. Nevertheless, within 90 seconds of that exchange, the two bros have pounded their beers and stepped off into the rainy Williamsburg night, alone except for each other.

I ask the three women, two of whom work for the Dia Foundation, what the guy had said to them. "He said he had a bet with his buddy," says Shannon, 29 and from Williamsburg, "that we couldn’t name the five oceans of the world."

Ahhh, Straussian Game bullshit, we all conclude. (Incidentally, the ladies got four of five, but couldn’t name the Southern Ocean.) "I felt bad for him," Shannon says, but then she would: she’s the sort who buys her two friends daffodils for their Valentine’s Day drinks together.

"I have to leave now," she says. "I have a Skype date with my long-distance boyfriend."

Soon the crowd has swelled to more than a hundred people. A dozen dance to, among other standards, the early work of Del the Funky Homosapien. "Mistadobalina. Mr. Bob Dobalina," the speakers blare. Nevertheless, the moment lacks the manic neediness of a truly desperate end-of-V-Day blowout. The line for the unisex bathrooms is brisk, and the photo booth is forlorn and vacant, empty of the making out couples who will fill it come Friday night.

Bravo, a member of Union Pool’s security, has been at the bar almost seven years, and agrees that the night is quieter than other Valentine’s Days — even than other Tuesdays. "The weather’s not great and there’s no band tonight in the back," he explains.

Bravo does agree with Union Pool’s libidinous characterization. "Oh yeah. Meat market, hipster hang out, make-out spot. Absolutely," he says. "There’s a saying: if you go to Union Pool and you can’t hook up with someone, something must be wrong with you."

Something must be wrong with most of the people here then, or so they fear. By 2:30 the crowd is down to about 50, 75% of whom are male. August, a 27-year-old video artist, and Logan, a 28-year-old actor, are hanging out back by the fire. "It’s a tradition of ours to spend Valentine’s Day together," August explains. "We like good food, good booze."

August has a pencil-thin mustache, a tweed sport coat, and is drinking a Manhattan. The boys had a late dinner at Diner and then drinks at Maison Premiere before ending up here. Earlier, Logan went to Death of a Salesman, while August worked an event at MOMA. Not such a bad Tuesday.

Nearby, 25-year-old Chen (the ch pronounced like "chutzpah") is hanging out with three guys from her native Israel, one of whom is, of course, her boyfriend. In Israel, she says, "everyone takes Valentine’s Day really seriously. Yeah, more than here. You see a lot of Facebook status updates and stuff."

At 3:15 a couple girls dance languorously to "Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon," but otherwise the night is on life support. Devin, 25 and mustached, is alone at the bar. Before coming to Union Pool, he was in Astoria "just hanging out." He’s only been to Union Pool once before, and is generally unaware of its meat-market reputation. He did, however, like the meats in the taco truck in the back. "It was a good taco. You can quote me on that."

4 Out of 5: Ilirjana Alushaj on Brooklyn

Ilirjana Alushaj is the founder of Pop Manifesto. She creates music for Apache Beat, Girl Crisis, and Typical Girls. She’s a columnist for Noisey. This is her take on four places she likes, and one place she doesn’t.

RECOMMENDED

Bakeri – "This place is really charming, and a lot of time has been spent here chatting with friends and eating pastries. All-round sweet coffee shop."

Desert Island – "If you love graphic novels, amazing prints and chatting with a really nice guy behind the counter, this is the place. Ghost World dreams come true."

Spectacle Theater – "A tiny theater that shows rare and strange films, along with live performances and other random acts of art. A fun viewing experience."

Tribeca Grand Hotel – "I curate events here sometimes and so have gotten to love its dark interiors and secret hotel room parties. Definitely a fun place to drink and get lost in."

NOT SO MUCH

Union Pool – "Despite good tacos, this place can get a bit fearsome with a lot people giving looks of desperation, especially on weekends."
 

The Hurricane That Wasn’t: Williamsburg Responds

I’m taking a break from cleaning up the mess I made preparing to prevent a mess that never happened. For me and mine, Irene seemed to be just a come-on, as it never quite delivered the promised apocalypse. I’ve been told of tragic deaths and power outages and floods, but little hit near my home in Williamsburg. I spent my hurricane night taking walks to delis to pick up even more food that I didn’t end up needing. The walks through the wind and rain were beautiful and not too treacherous. A group of shirtless hipsters screamed to the rain gods and offered us boisterous “Hell Yeah’s.” A car with a concerned citizen offered us a ride, deli owners offered fair deals, and smokers in rain gear in doorways offered us smiles and good lucks.

We were soaked to the bone in seconds. We were loving it, and at least we weren’t home watching those fools on NY 1. They were so wrong. The shots of their crews running around to find a tree limb that had fallen became tragically comical. We should all sue them for their hysterical incompetence. CNN and the Weather Channel added to the misinformation. The only service that had it right was my Droid Weather Bug application, which forecast the more manageable storm we actually had. Next time I’ll believe them, and it will be eons before I turn on NY1. The crowds at local pubs were celebrating the storm. Union Pool was a blast.

On Sunday we were told of the felling of the famed Vagina Tree in McCarren Park. A candlelight vigil became an unlit candlelight vigil as high winds blew firesticks out. The air was fresh, the sidewalks and gutters washed clean, every dog was looking for butts to sniff, and all the hipsters were looking for brunch. Every place was jammed. War conditions were in effect. We ate at Lodge, weathering the hour wait at their General Store outlet. Some of their staff walked three hours from Jamaica, Queens to serve us eggs.That’s the spirit.

Everybody in the hood was friendly and helpful. Retailers and restaurateurs were doing their best to understand the needs of their flock, who had gone stir crazy watching old movies, staying in for a whole Saturday night. The only exception to the helping-thy-neighbor rule was at Acqua Santa on Driggs, which denied one of my crew bathroom access with a cliche “bathrooms are for customers only.” It was no small wonder that they had two tables working while the rest of the hood was standing room only. They should be arrested.

Just before she scurried to safety Friday, my editor noted that this Saturday’s Junior Vasquez Birthday bash was postponed until October 8th at District 36. Webster Hall tried to open, but thought better of it. The Nightlife: The Art Exhibition opening at the Keeley Gallery on Bowery did not happen this Saturday, and has been rescheduled for this Wednesday. I’ll be out and about again tonight unless it takes me too long to get the duct tape off my windows.

Band on the Rise: Brooklyn’s Steel Phantoms

Every band begins somewhere, and for Steel Phantoms, like so many bands before them, those beginnings took shape in the network of venues that form the bedrock of Brooklyn’s music scene. Founded in 2009 by childhood friends from Pittsburgh Aaron Harris (former drummer for Islands) and Yosef Munro, the band cycled through guitarists before discovering the virtuoso talents of Jesse Newkirk IV. Today marks the release of the Forer EP, a tight collection of heady, delicately composed toe-tappers.

(Download it for free here.) We recently caught up with Aaron and Yos to ask them about being a band in Brooklyn (a good thing!), when we can expect a full-length (next year!), and just what exactly is a Forer (read on for that one).

How did the three of you start playing together, and where did you all meet? YM: Aaron and I have been playing music together for 12 years. We grew up together in Pittsburgh, went to the same college, and moved to New York at the same time to start Steel Phantoms. Our first show as a band was in August 2009. AH: Our first guitarist was our friend Chris, who used to be in AIDS Wolf and killed it on the guitar. He recorded some demos with us, but it didn’t end up working out. He moved to Amsterdam, and then we found Jesse through one of my coworkers. Jesse is a guitar god.

What are the best and worst things about being a Brooklyn-based band? AH: The environment here fosters creativity. The sheer volume of bands forces you to stay on your toes and that’s a good thing. YM: There are occasional frustrations, like venues dicking you over and people in the industry flaking on you, but really as long as we’re keeping at it, it’s all sunshine.

What can we expect from the Forer EP? AH: It’s our first project as a trio, and the music is a lot more confident than our first EP, the ideas are a lot clearer and more cohesive. We went through a lot of bass players over the past twelve months, and none of them really worked out, even though they were all super talented. I think that’s because we just always gelled better as a trio. YM: Yeah, and our tendencies as writers have always been more conducive to a sparser texture. I think of the first EP—where we sort of added Rhodes onto everything, and doubled the guitar parts just because—more as a collection of the first songs we wrote together as a new band, than as an actual EP. I still like it and we still play a couple of those songs, but the new EP is very different, and much more sonically cohesive.

Why did you name your EP after the psychologist Bertram Forer? YM: We’ve been wanting to use that name for a while. Aaron is all about horoscopes, and I was trying to convince him that they’re nothing but pseudoscience. In my search to prove myself right, I learned that Bertram Forer came up with the principle that people are willing to believe positive things about themselves but not negative ones. AH: And we thought it would be perfect for this EP, because my songs at least, tend to be about a lack of confidence or addressing my fears, and so it was interesting to read about this professor who addressed the psychosomatic aspect of what makes one confident or afraid. I still read my monthly horoscope, though.

Who or what were some of the biggest influences that went into constructing your sound? YM: We love XTC and Elvis Costello and the DBs, The Bangles and Richard Hell, and I think there’s influence from all that. We really like Pat Jordache, a great band out of Montreal, and have taken some pointers from their sound. I like the 80s and taking from new wave and no wave, while bringing a more current pop sound, as well as our own flair to it.

When can we expect a Steel Phantoms full-length? AH: That’s what we’re working towards. I think for right now we’re going to push this EP as much as possible, hopefully gain some new fans, and by this time next year have a full-length. Yos and I are constantly writing, so it’s not for lack of material that we don’t have an LP yet. What would be the ideal level of success for you guys as a band? AH: Ultimately, I think we want what every band wants: to be able to make a living playing our music to thousands of adoring fans. In the short-term though, I think I would feel successful if the result of releasing this EP was that we became a lot more well known locally.

Do you look at this band, or music in general, as a career? Or is it something you do when you’re young while you don’t have any real responsibilities? AH: This is totally a career for us. I’ve been studying and playing music my entire life. I’ve never thought of it as a hobby or something that I’d do temporarily before “growing up.” One of the best things about Steel Phantoms is that we’re three guys who couldn’t be happy doing anything else besides performing and playing music.

Aaron, you used to be a member of Islands. Has that helped you get your foot in the door, at all? AH: Definitely. When we first started playing shows, we had to throw out the Islands name in order for any venue or promoter to give us the time of day, especially since at the time we weren’t really friends with any other Brooklyn bands, because we were new to the city, so it wasn’t like we could just hop on our friends’ shows. I also think a lot of music bloggers who normally wouldn’t even open an email from a random band, took a chance on us because of the Islands name. It’s not something that we have to do much anymore because we’re a bit more established now, and I want SP to stand on its own two feet, but I’m thankful that I could use the Islands connection in the beginning.

What is a Steel Phantoms live show like? AH: We set up in the front of the stage, all in a row and just fucking go for it. Our songs can be pretty different stylistically from one to the next, so I like to think that we try to play every song with the same level of energy and intensity which brings a sort of continuity to our see. Of course the fact that we dress up as Neo Goth Rabbis makes us an interesting band to see live, but we’re still working on our stage banter. YM: How’s this one: “My mom wanted to come to this show, until she found out my band was playing!” Zing! AH: Nice.

What are some of your favorite venues to play? YM: We really like a good house party if they have a half-decent sound system. It’s more about the people and the energy than anything else, but we’ve had fun playing Brooklyn Bowl, Secret Project Robot, St. Vitus, Union Pool, Glasslands, MHoW, and Union Hall. All places that care about putting on a good show and are respectful towards the performers.

Have you embraced technology it all when making music, or do you prefer to make music the old school way? YM: I don’t like a laptop in a rock band, personally, unless it really, really works. I think there’s something to be said for being able to play an instrument well and writing collaboratively. But I love drum machines and synths, I love what MNDR does, and I know it’s on the other side of the coin, but I love what Girl Talk does. I love rehearsing with real instruments, and being able to communicate an idea clearly to the guys and just try it out, and then be like, Oh, actually what if that was a D-minor instead of major, and then it kind of happens, and we design synth patches and come up with drum patterns together. I think with digital music, there’s always a risk of getting lazy by copying and pasting, and that’s definitely not always bad, but it becomes easy to not think creatively. You aren’t forced to consider every moment of the song as it’s being written. Very meticulous writers still do, but with digital music, the focus is inherently on a broader scale in terms of structure. Sorry if that makes no sense at all.

Do you guys aim to make your music catchy? Do you think that’s important? YM: We like catchy music, when it’s good. It’s definitely important. People’s brains latch on to patterns for a reason. We definitely aim for a bit of repetition when it’s called for. And when one of us comes up with a great hook, it’s cause for celebration.

Do you ever get overwhelmed, being a band in such a band-saturated place like Brooklyn? How do you rise above? YM: You find a network of support after being here a certain amount of time, I think. Good musicians who are on the right track, who have their “fingers on the pulse,” or whatever, of the scene here. Bands who like each other who play shows together, tour, and shoot the shit. We’ve been able to play great shows with incredible bands like ARMS, Violent Bullshit, Wild Yaks, Shark?, EULA and Spacecamp, and a bunch more, and it’s all from hanging out and meeting good people and camaraderie between bands.